A FEW GOOD SCENES – Recent Excursions

Memorial Boardwalk Brigantine April 2017

FINALLY! BACK TO ‘THE BRIG’ — Leed’s Eco-Trail

***

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know how important weekend adventures are to me, –the essentiality of refilling the well, emptied daily in our work, saving the Planet.

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Leeds Point Classic Scene Fishing Village Brigantine early April 2017

And Beloved Leed’s Point, (near home of the Jersey Devil, whom I long to meet!)

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Some of you also know about February’s torn meniscus — healing enough that I’ve been back on the trails.  But p.t. takes hours daily, –some in private, some with kind, gentle, dedicated coaches.  There remains too little time for creativity with all this body-building.  The whole point of this work on “glutes, hamstrings and core” is to get back outside.  Come with me to recent restorative havens.

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Snowy Egret in Full Breeding Plumage, in WIND, The Brig

Snowy Egret Misty Brig Spring 2017

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Visitor Center, Purple Martin Houses, Perfect Clouds – The Brig

Visitor Cednter for Martins, for Humans Brig Spring 2017

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Spring Mimics Autumn – Swamp Maple, Waterlilies, The Brig

Spring Mimics Autumn at Brig 2017

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Essence of Spring – Geese and Goslings — The Brig

Goose Goslings Gander Brig Spring 2017

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Jeanette Hooban (Intrepid) Rights Horseshoe Crabs,

Fortescue, Delaware Bayshore

Jeanette Righting Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Spring 2017

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High Tides Upset Horseshoe Crabs, Fortescue

Life and Death Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs and Eggs Mem. Day 2017

BEACH COBBLED WITH HORSESHOE CRABS — 2 weeks late for the Full Moon of May

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Primordial Drama Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Spring 2017

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SACRED EGGS OF THE HORSESHOE CRABS 

But red knots and ruddy turnstones may have come and gone, ill-nourished, to Arctic

The Sacred Eggs Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs Mem. Day 2017

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Fortescue at Its Best — Late Light, Late Fishermen

Delaware Bay Day's End Fortescue Horseshoe Crabs 2017

“DAY IS DONE, GONE THE SUN” – Fortescue

For these scenes, these full days in the wild, all those intense hours of physical therapy, with John Walker of Princeton Orthopaedic Group; and of chiropractic with Brandon Osborne, D.C., are worth it.  Whatever it takes to give yourselves the wild, do it!

I dare to rephrase Thoreau:  “In wildness is the healing of the world.”

WHEN A DEAR FRIEND DIES — for Alan

Christmas Fog Brig Tasha Alan 2015

Alan MacIlroy and Tasha O’Neill birding foggy Brigantine on Christmas 2015

The news we always knew, but never believed, slashes out of morning, startling and impossible as thunder snow.

Although creativity is the heart of the matter in the home Alan MacIlroy has left for our true home, — neither words nor images come to my summons, as mourning descends upon me.

My dearest Tasha is widowed anew.  Alan’s ruddy car sits in their driveway with its subtle license reminding us of his priority:  TH JRNY.   Now he has embarked on the universal journey.

Over more years than I can tally, Tasha and Alan and I have shared priceless rituals, from fireside lobster in Maine to Christmas picnics at Brigantine Wildlife Refuge.

The day of our foggy Christmas feast, a peregrine falcon had stationed itself upon a speed limit sign — “15 mph” — just beyond the Brig’s northeast corner turn.  My camera does not do justice to this monarch holding court for a rosary of reverent automobiles immobilized upon the dike road.  Alan, Tasha and I quietly slid out of his Christmasy car to stand in silence, worshiping.

After a significant interval, Alan announced, “Let’s not go over to Scott’s Landing for our Christmas dinner.  How could we leave the peregrine?”

Only as I type this, do I realize, the word peregrine means wanderer.

Alan is the consummate mentor.  “Mr. Fix-It.”  Every problem solved, especially in advance, especially for his cherished Kingston church, and local businessmen and women.  Each wooded trail at their Maine home maintained.  Every lobster boat observed upon stormy or tranquil bay.  Each wood fire, kindled on a cooling summer’s night.  His dazzling, impeccable TR 4, shining on the driveway, ready for a jaunt.  He is each woodworking project magnificently accomplished, including caning two chairs for me, burnishing the Provencal olive wood cutting board that had dimmed since I lived there.  Grace, gentleness, generosity.   Smiles and that quiet voice we will no longer hear.  Alan was the essence of tranquility.  Alan is love.

His quietly merry  spirit will be with us on every future excursion. Yet the glow of that luminous man has become memory.

Mary Elizabeth’s crystalline phrases echo as I find myself bereft of words.  May her inspiration be with NJWILDBEAUTY readers  — in this dire era, –in which too many days begin with yet another cancer call:

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.

 

I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;

 

I am not there. I did not die.

***

 

Brigantine Christmas PIcnic 2015

Tasha Prepares our 2015 Christmas Feast

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“How can we leave the peregrine?”     Now, our wanderer has left us…

Territorial Peregrine Brigantine Christmas 2015

WHEN YOUR EASTER OUTFIT IS BIRDING GEAR…

Hold on to your Hat Jeanette Hooban at Cape May Hawk Watch Platform Easter 2017

“HOLD ONTO YOUR HAT!” – Intrepid Jeanette Hooban on Easter

Hawk Watch Platform, Cape May, New Jersey

Over the weekend, yours truly set off for New Jersey’s two birding meccas, –Cape May and ‘The Brig’/Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.  As usual, she was running away from Holidays that used to be magical, in quest of winged rarities.  This memorable journey unfolded after Intrepid Jeanette Hooban declared [some months ago], “Carolyn, Easter is YOURS!”

Cape May Hawk Watch Platform aster 2017

HAWK WATCH PLATFORM:  Support these courageous and generous donors, without whose work and words, people could still be slaughtering rare birds by the thousands, all along Sunset Boulevard.

The Climate Change that ‘doesn’t exist’ had other ideas.  Gale-winds had flags snapping almost to the tearing point.  Out of the SOUTH — the direction in which migrants need to be flying.  They may as well have faced a wall.

Wild Wind & Flags Cape May Easter 2017

NOTE THOSE WIND-WHIPPED FLAGS

Jeanette and I learned that only swans, osprey and a smattering of gulls were strong enough either day to surmount the mistral-like onslaught.

Mute Swan in Territorializing Posture Cape May Easter 2017

MUTE SWAN INSTITUTES TERRITORIALIZING POSTURE

We were given three oystercatchers at the Meadows at Cape May — walking around, seeking the ideal spot for the scrape they consider a nest.  Territorialzing was inevitable and amazingly raucous.  Get that verb though, “walking.”  At the Brig, –on the side of the renovated road, opposite Atlantic City–,  a pair of oystercatchers walked around on the pale gravelly substrate, nesting on their minds.  These could have been the pair I watched feeding one young a summer ago, in that same place, where Sandy had devoured the road.

There were a few great egrets in stunning breeding plumage.  They, also, were walking.  Terns wheeled and plunged.  A yellowlegs (I can’t tell greater from lesser unless they’re side-by-side) and some willets also tried to feed in low water, –feed on foot, not on wings.

So, right now, your NJ WILDBEAUTY Cape May activity report is being replaced this time by this poem.  It was written when the Dodge Poetry Festival was still held at Waterloo Village.  Joy Harjo, a feisty, eloquent Native American, magnificently conveyed her splendid multi-level poem, “She Had Some Horses.”

 

“SHE SAW SOME BIRDS”

                                                           (Hearing Joy Harjo at the  Dodge Poetry Festival)

 

she saw some birds who

were little and magical

and easily mistaken

— one for the other —

warbling in underbrush

and sporting, at the last moment

a red kiss

or a brassy crown or a

gold coin on a dark

rump, — and tiny, so tiny

really almost

invisible

 

she saw some birds who

were too high on a tree-

limb or a thermal

or above slate seas

and twisting — this

way and that –, hiding

their field marks

 

they could have been

peregrine or immature golden

against the noon sun but

no one can quite

make this call

 

she saw some birds

with distinctive bellies

plastered flat against

dark trunks which they were

excavating high and deep

where no one can climb

or raid or even — at the very

least — identify

 

she heard some birds

in the wide marsh

as the sun slipped

away from her and even

worse, from her birds

 

who had concealed

themselves among sere rushes

which they exactly matched

so she could not see but only

hear their rattle or click or whine

and wonder if this was her

rail, her shy bittern

 

the ones who so skillfully lose

themselves in the sedges as

she so longs to do in such

a setting,… everywhere

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

 

Brigantine Return – Last of the Winter Birds

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that ‘The B rigantine’, or Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, near Smithville, New Jersey, has been closed to humans other than construction workers, since September.  I’ve now made two trips to the re-roaded, re-opened refuge.  I am happy to note that rarities are in residence, or in tourist mode, to a high degree.  This late March Saturday, we were treated to the last of the winter birds, and one life species for me — WHITE IBIS — two in a tree with a Great Egret, on the way to the Gull Pond Tower.  Most of these images are by my dear friend and superb bird artist, Brenda Jones.  All of them are wild nature, roaming free, thanks to far-sighted altruistic politicians of yesteryear.

A thousand thanks always to consummate birder, Mary Wood, who not only drives us in her silent Prius, which does not alarm the wildlings.  But who gave me her spectacular (second pair) of Swarovski binoculars, which finally allow me to see eye rings…

In case you wonder why people bird….

 

White_ibises_feature

Imagine Two White Ibis in One Tree — (Internet Image)   We left before they did...

Great Egret Brigantine Forsythe Brenda Jones 2

Great Egret – We also saw this one wading about (a first for us!) in sparkling Absecon Bay

bufflehead Brenda Jones

Brenda’s Serene Male Bufflehead — We had three females, two males.

Female Bufflehead Bull's Island Stockton NJ Brenda Jones

Brenda’s Intricate Female Bufflehead

Mute swan Brenda Jones

At one point, we had the mute swan and the 5 buffleheads ‘in one glass’

(meaning we could see all without moving our optics)

Osprey on winter tree Brenda Jones

We were this close to the first returned male osprey, — serene, imperious on his nest.  His mate is due to return in about two weeks. 

Green-Winged Teal Brenda Jones

We had green-winged teal beyond counting, at the inlet from Absecon Bay

snow_goose_laura_frazier_blackwaternationalwildliferefuge_cambridge_md from internet

We were given snow geese in numbers of this magnitude – Laura Frazier at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, from Internet — our were at rest upon the waters, serenading us with that musical murmur before departing for cooler climes…

Female Harrier Comin' In on a Wing Brenda Jones

Brenda’s Spectacular Female Harrier – I also spied “The Grey Ghost,” the elusive silvery male northern harrier, coasting along the tree line in a field to the west of Route 206, before we’d even turned into the Pine Barrens.

Song Sparrow from blind Brenda Jones

We heard, but did not see, the song sparrow at the northeast corner of the Refuge.

black brant in water from Internet

Internet Image of Black Brant in Water — We were given flocks on both sides, –bay and impoundment — and overhead in elegant waves.

Chickadee with Berry Brenda Jones

We frequently heard and ‘almost saw’ chickadees.

Red-winged Blackbird Brenda Jones

We heard and saw newly returned red-winged blackbirds.

Our finale bird at the Brig was an American Bald Eagle hiding out, disguising its imperious white head and diagnostic white tail in a black and white paper birch overlooking the final pond.

Eagle perched Brenda Jones new camera

BRIGANTINE WILDLIFE DRIVE NOW OPEN

northernharrierhawklht3-19-12dsc_5594

Northern Harrier Soaring, by Brenda Jones

 

Can you believe it?  This news came first to me from my Illinois sister, Marilyn:

The Brig, closed in September, is open again.  I’m trusting that the construction has ceased as declared, so that not only human, but also winged, visitors can return to the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.

Get down there A.S.A. P. outside of Smithville and Oceanville, NJ, to see snow geese, where they belong, claiming their own refuge, along with every gorgeous complex winter duck!  And the resident peregrine.  And who knows, maybe even a harrier or two?

Every bird where it belongs – in preserved lands fully open to the public.                                                                                                                 (Notice from Friends of Forsythe)

WILDLIFE DRIVE IS NOW OPEN!
As of Friday, 2/10/17, Wildlife Drive has fully reopened!
We thank you for your patience during construction. To show our appreciation, there will not be an entrance fee until April 1st!
Wildlife Drive normal hours have resumed, sunrise to sunset 7 days a week.
The Visitor Center winter hours are Monday through Friday 10am-3pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-3pm.

“BLAZING DISCONTENT”

heavy-heavy-hangs-late-snow-march-2015

Heavy, Heavy hang… conifer boughs in Lawrenceville, NJ

i AM NOT THE ONLY ONE DRIVEN TO QUOTE SHAKESPEARE’S MOST SEVERE TRAGEDIES BY CURRENT EVENTS.  What brings the white fury to us, catalyzes apocalyptic melting in the Arctic.  See Climate Change on “the unprecedented”, below.

But Shakespeare well knew how brief is our little turn upon the stage.  However, the impacts of our actions and inactions have permanent effect.  Certain persons (the highly funded Climate Deniers, read Naomi Klein’s prize-winning non-fiction masterpiece: This Changes Everything!) would have us believe that catastrophic climate change is a myth.

Hike a receding marsh; walk a chewed beach; drive through Pine Barrens forests where sand always drained instantly, where standing water has become the norm, except in summer.

Climate Central is a tremendously valuable, non-partisan, Princeton-based group committed to climate truth.  Climate Change is worth following, meter-by-meter.  Read with me as this morning’s communique warns of “profound change.”  (www.climatecentral.org)

If you want the truth, here is where to find it.

The Winter of Blazing Discontent Continues in the Arctic

By Brian Kahn

  • Published: February 6th, 2017

 

Weird. Strange. Extreme. Unprecedented.

These are some of the words that describe what’s been happening in the Arctic over the past year as surge after surge of warm air has stalled, and at times reversed, sea ice pack growth. And the unfortunate string of superlatives is set to continue this week.

Arctic sea ice is already sitting at a record low for this time of year and a powerful North Atlantic storm is expected to open the flood gates and send more warmth pouring into the region from the lower latitudes. By Thursday, it could reach up to 50°F above normal. In absolute temperature, that’s near the freezing point and could further spur a decline in sea ice.

Abnormally warm air is expected to reach the North Pole by Thursday.
Credit: Climate Reanalyzer

Scientists have said the past year in the Arctic is “beyond even the extreme” as climate change remakes the region.

Sea ice hit a record low maximum last winter (for the second year in a row,  no less) and the second-lowest minimum ever recorded last fall. After a fairly rapid refreeze in late September, the region experienced a dramatic shift. Extraordinary warmth has been a recurring theme.

Sea ice growth reversed in November. Temperatures reached the melting point at the North Pole in December. Preliminary data from January indicates the Arctic was up to 35°F above normal in some locations, including a mid-January mild wave.

That brings us to early February, which is setting up for another bout of mild weather in the Arctic.

A massive storm is swirling toward Europe. It’s a weather maker in itself, churning up waves as high as 46 feet and pressure dropping as low as is typical for a Category 4 hurricane as of Monday. The storm is to the southeast of Greenland and its massive comma shape has made for stunning satellite imagery. The storm is expected to weaken as it approaches Europe, but it will conspire with a high-pressure system over the continent to send a stream of warm air into the Arctic through the Greenland Sea.

Temperatures are forecast to reach the melting point in Svalbard, Norway, an island between the Greenland and Karas Seas. The North Pole could also approach the melting point on Thursday.

It’s just the latest signal that the Arctic is in the middle of a profound change. Sea ice extent has dropped precipitously as has the amount of old ice, which is less prone to breakup. Beyond sea ice, Greenland’s ice sheet is also melting awayand pushing sea levels higher, large fires are much more common and intense in boreal forests and other ecosystem changes are causing the earth to hyperventilate.

Together, these all indicate that the Arctic is in crisis. It’s the most dramatic example of how carbon pollution is reshaping the planet and scientists are racing to understand what comes next.

 

 

Some of you think what I’m writing is gloomy.  My level of desolation I would say has peaked, except I know there is far worse to come.  Some of you wish I would just enter pretty pictures of New Jersey’s spectacular nature.  SO DO I!

boardwalk-to-destruction-ib-cfe

Island Beach Boardwalk to Destruction – Nor’easter-scoured, Dunes Conquered

But I AM a Saggitarian, and truth is our middle name.  The reality is, everyone, WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY WILD BEAUTY LEFT, –NOT ONLY IN NEW JERSEY–, SO LONG AS CATASTROPHIC CLIMATE CHANGE IS ALLOWED TO RUN AMUCK, LET ALONE BE EXACERBATED BY THOSE WHO WOULD PROFIT FROM IT.

We are the only state with three coastlines — The Jersey Shore; The Delaware River; The Delaware Bay.  New Jersey is being squeezed like an orange by Catastrophic  Climate Change’s generation of Sea-Level-Rise.  Get it!

 

foot-access-only-brigantine-after-sandy-12-25-2012

FOOT ACCESS ONLY — FOOT TRAILS OPEN – THE BRIG/FORSYTHE after Sandy

 

Fed Up with Spring –Give Me Brigantine Winter!

Morning Has Broken Brig Winter 2016

“,Morning Has Broken” – Brigantine Dawn, Winter 2016

Personally, I am sick of insufficient spring.  A million trees in flower do not DO it for me!

Give me sun and light and brilliance and wilderness, crispness and clarity, and rare wild birds.  Give me bays and impoundments, tidal marshes.  Give me the Brigantine Wildlife Refuge in winter, with all its magnificences and quirks.  End my day with gustatory perfection and a sunset right out of Mark Rothko.  Give me perfection, in our New Jersey!

Beauty, Beauty Everywhere Brig Winter 2016

Beauty, Beauty, Everywhere – ‘The Brig’ Winter 2016

All's Well Brig Winter 2016

La Tranquillite — Brig Entry Winter 2016

Snow Geese Brig Winter 2016

Snow Geese Brig Winter 2016

Refuge Brig Winter 2016

Ding Darling Trademark Sign for National Wildlife Refuges

Goose Knows the Way Brig Winter 2016

“The Goose Knows the Way” – Ding Darling NWR Motif as Weathervane on Brig Visitors’ Center

Washed Out Road Brig Winter 2016

Washed-Out Road, Absecon Bay, Brig, Winter 2016 – Why Brig is closed during week and barely open on weekends right now

Destruction or Preservation Brig Winter 2016

Destruction/Desecration or Preservation? – Brig Winter 2016

Track of the Cat   Brig Winter 2016

Track of the Cat — Too-Prevalent Changes at Brig/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Winter 2016

Fellow Visitor Brig Winter 2016

Fellow Visitor – Brig – Winter 2016

Beware of the Locals Brig Winter 2016

“Beware of the Locals” — Mott’s Creek, near Brig Winter 2016

Dusk and Controlled Burn Brig Winter 2016

“Fire in the Pines” – from Leeds Point near Brig, Winter 2016

Lunch, Anyone Brig Winter 2016

LUNCH – We’re not in Kansas any more.. Oyster Creek Inn, Leeds Point near Brig

Winter Hours Brig Winter 2016

“Winter Hours” Oyster Creek Inn Leeds Point near Brig Winter 2016

Leeds Point Marshlands from Deck of Oyster Creek Inn Brig Winter 2016

Leeds Point Fishing Village and Tidal Marshlands from Deck of Oyster Creek Inn near Brig. Wintertime 2016

Oyster Creek Welcome Brig Winter 2016

Oyster Creek Welcome, Leeds Point, NJ   NOTE SANDY WATER LINE 2012

Oysters of Oyster Creek Brig Winter 2016

Oyster Creek’s Specialty, Winter 2016

Tuckerton Sunset after Brig Winter 2016

Tuckerton Sunset, near Jacques Yves Cousteau Society

Last Glimpse of Winter Sun Brig Winter 2016

Last Glimpse of This Day’s Light, Tuckerton, End of Seven Bridges Road, north of Brig off Route 9

LIBERTY THOUGHTS

Friends Return Dune Walk Noreaster

Island Beach – Intrepids Walk into the Nor’Easter, in my Favorite Ten-Mile Preserve

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I cherish and require New Jersey’s wild natural spaces.  Frankly, my passion for NJ open space is right up there with my need of Cornwall’s and Brittany’s.  It’s why I pour myself into preservation every week at D&R Greenway Land Trust.  Although centered in Princeton, we save the land in seven counties, approaching the 20,000-acre mark.

Cedar Ridge Welcome

Cedar Ridge Preserve, Welcome Sign and Welcoming Meadow

Lovely Cedar Ridge, like all of our preserves, bel0ngs to the people, in the best American tradition.  Wild creatures thrive here.  Hunters have restored a stone wall of yesteryear.  A majestic oak stand sentinel at the center of the trails.  The ‘two-legged, the four-legged, the winged’, as the Lenni Lenape named them, are free in this multi-faceted setting just off Van Dyke Road beyond Hopewell, because it was preserved.

Box Turtle leaves and roots

Terrestrial Box Turtle, Safe and Free on the Forest Floor of Cedar Ridge

The box turtle reminds me of FDR’s Four Freedoms, so beautifully illustrated in four enormous canvases at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  Never forget these freedoms.

Choose only to vote for people who increase:

FREEDOM FROM FEAR

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

FREEDOM FROM WANT

FREEDOM OF WORSHIP

Every once in awhile, I have to visit other states in quest of wild beauty, spectacular hikes, and always history.  Don’t get me wrong, NJ has HISTORY in capital letters.  I’ve read that 75% of the significant battles of our Revolution took place on NJ soil.  And three significant early victories — the two battles of Trenton and the single one at Princeton.  Our Founding Fathers traveled through our state on their way to forging liberty at Philadelphia.  Words penned there could have cost every delegate his “life, fortune and sacred honor.”  Two nearby New Jerseyans paid with their lives for Signing that sacred Declaration – Stockton and Hart.

General Washington examined the Delaware from Goat Hill, below Lambertville, before his significant Christmastime crossing. John McPhee claims that the shad of that sacred river sustained the troops at Valley Forge.  And some also insist that rations of Jersey Ligntnin’ — applejack made particularly in our Pine Barrens– were issued to instill courage as needed.

Delaware in November Looking North from Goat Hill Trail

George Washington’s View From Goat Hill Preserve, Below Lambertville

The General and his bootless heroic men defended liberty at Monmouth, where extreme summer heat may have been our secret weapon.  We would not have become the literal Land of Liberty without New Jersey.

For me, there’s a special, inexplicable connection between lighthouses and liberty:

East Point Light and Flag May 2015

East Point Light and Flag, Delaware Bayshore

Partly on account of the courageous and brilliant Adams of Massachusetts, we secured true freedom from the tyranny of George III.  Never forget that John daringly defended those accused of the so-called Boston Massacre.  Otherwise, he insisted, all the words spoken and penned in Philadelphia would have meant nothing.

Sometimes I have to return to his state for deep doses of history, heroism, and nature herself.  Chatham Mass.was my summer home for at least a decade of summers.  Glorious even in fog, Chatham seems to hold light by day and by night, filling me recently, as NJWILDBEAUTY readers know, with scenes seemingly unchanged since the 1970’s.

Chatham’s light has brought safety in storms for decades beyond counting.  Let that light fill you, and and do whatever you can to increase the light of true liberty in our land.

Chatham Light Storm-blown Flag jpg

Chatham Light and Flag

 

 

Leeds Point with Flag Flying pre Sandy

Leeds Point, Pine Barrens Fishing Village

In rustic Leeds Point (home of the Jersey Devil, also in the 1700’s) fishermen and clammers and crabbers remain free to ply their generational trade, moving silently along tidal creeks through wetlands.  Many wetlands in that region have been preserved through the foresight of Forsythe – Edmund B., a politician far ahead of his time in realizing how important open space is to true liberty.

Remembering FDR   Library May 2015

FDR Sculpture, FDR Library, Hyde Park NY

Two of my all-time heroes are Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his intrepid activist wife, Eleanor.  Next week I’ll be in his ancestral home, Springwood, with two of The Intrepids.  We’ll make pilgrimage to 1930’s murals, evoking rural ways and the Depression out of which FDR pulled us all, in the post office he dedicated in Rhinebeck.

Rhinebeck Flag

Rhinebeck, New York Flag. at Historic Post Office

Beekman Arms Flags Rhinebeck NY

Flags of Beekman Arms, Rhinebeck, New York

 Our first meal will be at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, pre-Revolutionary haven and living museum.  Their Tavern seems even now to echo with the sound of pewter tankards, banged on weathered tables, as Revolutionaries of New York insisted, “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

My friends know, if I could return in any era, I’d choose Philadelphia in the 1770’s.  I’d have to have been a man then, of course.  We’d all be there – Tom and John and Ben and George and Richard Stockton and I hope Tom Paine, banging those tankards at the City Tavern by my beloved Delaware River.

From our thoughts and this cacophony would flow the liberty which sustains us today.  Do not, for God’s sake, lose it!

These two never lost sight of what really matters in America.

Our Heroes FDR Library

Our Heroes, Eleanor and Franklin

WINTER BIRDING: Brigantine Excursion(s)

As I prepare a 7+a.m. departure for the Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge with the original Intrepids, [Sunday, February 28], I am so impatient to be there that I retrieve these images for NJWILDBEAUTY.  Taken in Christmas Fog with Tasha O’Neill and Alan McIlroy, they reveal our annual Christmas picnic tradition in this haven for birds and humans.

Eagle on the Osprey at Brigantine Christmas 2015

Brigantine Fog Christmas Day: Eagle Thinks He’s Safe on Osprey Nest Near Dike Road

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know my passion for hiking winter beaches.  Part of that impulse is the rare sight of snow on sand.  2016’s major lure, however, has been to be in the presence of the rare birds of winter.

You’ve exulted with me over long-tailed ducks and gannets at Island Beach in November/December.  Yesterday, at Sandy Hook, I was privileged to be somewhat near four long-tails (formerly Old Squaws, but not p.c.) and one red-throated loon in winter plumage – also an Island Beach rarity enjoyed not long ago.  The amusing thing about the red-throated loon, however,  is that it doesn’t display its red throat in winter.  But it’s still elegant, imposing, arresting, even in an otherwise empty ocean!

Christmas Fog Brig Tasha Alan 2015

Tasha and Alan, Christmas Fog, the Brig — Note Obvious Warmth…

In a few morning minutes, I’m being descended upon by three of the Intrepids, whom you remember from the Nor’easter at Island Beach.  Mary Penney, Bill Rawlyk, Jeanette Hooban and I and are taking off on my cherished back roads down to ‘The Brig.’ Most of this day (and even on major holidays) we’ll be alone on straight smooth stretches edged with pitch pine, blueberry bushes, blackjack oaks and sugar sand.

Otherwise known for the politician who saved great swathes of open New Jersey shoreland, Edwin B. Forsythe, winter’s Brigantine Refuge should be rich in swans of several species, snow geese beyond counting, vivid ducks — especially beloved buffleheads and various saucy mergansers.  With luck, we’ll re-find the peregrine of our Christmas picnic.  Nearby, also in Atlantic County, three avocets are listed on the birding hot line this morning as “Continuing.”  Can we find them?  Will the avocets dance for us today?

Christmas Goose Brig 2015

Christmas Goose (Geese) of the Brig

Bedecked Goose Marker in Christmas Fog

Ding Darling Goose Sign in Christmas Hat and Scarf — All the Ding-Darling-Designed Goose Signs Wore Someone’s Handiwork

Who could stay home with all these riches 75 miles away?  O, yes, and there’ll be bountiful breakfast at Smithville’s historic, cozy, savory “Bakery.”  [One friend thought that only meant sweets, so had filled up, tragically, before the trip. I think she ordered orange juice…]  We will be forced to choose between in-house yeasty sweet breads, and their savory home-made sausage patties and eggs that taste like eggs, with yolks like marigolds.  The Bakery echoes a stage-coach site at the corner of Route 9 and Alternate 561 in Smithville that harkens back to pre-Revolutionary Days.  There we read of Jimmie Leeds, who wrote the first Almanac in America, which Ben Franklin called America’s first literature.  Also, obviously, near the birthplace of the Jersey Devil, which we’ll seek out after the birds.

Territorial Peregrine Brigantine Christmas 2015

Territorial Peregrine of Christmas

Tasha at work in Christmas fog

Tasha, Fine Art Photographer, At Work in the Fog

Snow Geese of Christmas

The Christmas Goose — well, GEESE, Snow, of Course!

Brigantine Christmas PIcnic 2015

Tasha’s Christmas Picnic, Which Alan Insisted we eat in the Brig, “Because, how can we leave the Peregrine?”

Bon Appetit Christmas

Bon Appetit, Tasha-Style

 

Tasty Treats of Christmas

Tasty Treats, including Home-Made Tomato Soup in Heated Mugs

 

Sneak Boat Disguises Hunters off Brigantine Refuge Christmas Morning

Sneak Boat Hunting at the Edge of the Refuge, shots audible, Christmas Day

Snow Geese Forever at Brig

Snow Geese Forever as the Fog Begins to Lift

Christmas Fog begins to lift 2015

“Blue Skies Smiling”, as We Prepare to Depart

O, and what happened today?  Stay tuned – but think snow geese like snow drifts; rare red-breasted merganser couple, blown in on recent wild winds; and our Absecon Quest for the “Continuing” Avocets — yes, they danced for us – worthy of the journey!.

Winter birding is always rich, rewarding and varied.  Surprises are the norm.

The peace and beauty of the Pine Barrens stuns us newly every time.  This is a world where people still live by the seasons and the tides.

Yes, haven.

 

 

 

TRUMPETER SWANS FOR THANKSGIVING

Perfection Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving Perfection – Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I run away from holidays.  Thanksgiving was no exception.  Key birder, Mary Wood, and I set out for long empty Pinelands roads which lead past bogs and to ‘the B rig’ (Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge near Smithville.)

Pinelands Beckons at Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Brigantine Forest Trail – Sugar Sand and Pine Duff – on Thanksgiving

Just below Chatsworth (“The Heart of the Pines”) we came upon bogs being plowed and replanted, probably with berries that don’t ripen when all the other cranberries do.  Sand has its own beauty, and we were grateful for that, and for wild tracks – one probably coyote, one definitely fox, amidst the sugar sand.

New Planting New Drainage Chatsworth 2015

Preparing for new cranberry varieties

Preparing to Replant Cranberry Bogs 2015

Pine Barrens Sugar Sands near Chatsworth Bogs

Sugar Sand Track

Fox Claims Trail 2015

Wild Track

Pine Island Cranberry Company 2015

Legendary Haines Pine Island Cranberry Company near Chatsworth

Little did we know that the day’s highlight was just ahead.  Against the far shore, on a tiny gin-clear lake, we found not one but four trumpeter swans.

Trumpeter Swans first view near Chatsworth 2015

Oler Lake Holds Trumpeters near Chatsworth 2015

Oler Lake was Swan Lake — see white dots in distance

Mary set up the scope and we spent about a half hour with these dignified beauties.

Trumpeter Swan Families from Internet

Tundra Swan Images from Internet

Her splendid optics revealed jet black beaks, not a glimmer of yellow lore that would have identified tundra swans.  They swam in such unison that the four created one thin wake.  One of the three was an immature, the grey of chinchilla fur, and every bit as dignified and splendid as those matures.  No ‘ugly ducklings’ here!

We drove between glistening pitch pines, and gleaming blackjack oaks – shrublike oaks that retain their cinnamon-hued leaves until April.  Sand softened the roadway, and barely human appeared.

Soon, ‘the Brig’ beckoned, equally shining in Thanksgiving light.

Silence had surrounded us all the way down, and was almost audible in the Refuge.  Peace was the order of the day, and impeccable beauty.

1 Swan a-Swimming Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Mary and the Mute Swan, near Gull Tower

Mute swans swam singly or in couples, swirling here, circling there — no family groups and no thin wake here.  Tiger-orange beaks shouting their presence, identifying this slightly smaller noble member of the swan family.

We were given hundreds of tundra swans, thousands of snow geese.  This internet picture will do for you what my camera will not.  I have been at the brig when the sky was whitened with snow geese; a blizzard, and every flake a snow goose here for the winter.

Snow Geese On the Wing from Internet

We were so warm, we set up and used the scope for great swathes of time, in light jackets, then shirtsleeves.

Mary Wood Setting the Scope Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

One of the stars of the day was a solo boat-tailed grackle.  These pictures from the Internet give you some idea of their dignity.  We could barely tear ourselves away from this heroic bird.

His breast was awash in every tone of blue on black the color of wet jet.  Each minuscule movement created aurora-borealis-like shiftings and glowing along that dark expanse.  Behind him shimmered limitless reaches of impoundments of varying salinities, peppered with black ducks and Northern pintails, shovelers and mallards beyond counting.

Boat-Tailed Grackle Close-Up from Internet

Boat-Tailed Grackle full shot from Internet

A walk in a forest brought glorious oversized leaves, cushiony pine needles everywhere, light slicing through woods, and adorable yellow-rumped warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler from Internet

Yellow-rumped warbler from Internet

Huge Oak Leaf Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Oversized Oak Leaf, Brigantine Pine Forest

Even the mud was beautiful!

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud Brigantine Thanksgiving 2015

Mud near Leeds Eco-Trail

We had jokingly gone to the Brig to find the hot-line-reported scissor-tailed flycatcher.  I’d seen one at Sandy Hook, one at Cape May, in my entire life.  We did see and hear some unusual birds in shrubs and deciduous trees along the impoundments.  Here’s what we should have found, but were unable to discover.

Scissorf-tailed Flycatcher we did not see, from Internet

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher from Internet

Day’s Stars – Trumpeter Swans from Internet

trumpeter_swan Internet

The monarchs of this kingdom proved to be those trumpeter swans — not only hither and yon throughout Brig waters, in small trim family groups.  But also, at the end, the pond where we’d hoped for buffleheads, two coursing overhead in silent flight, and yet we could hear the air passing through those solid, stately wings.

trumpeter swans on the wing from Internet

Trumpeter Swans from Internet

Running away from holidays holds so many miracles.  It was almost a day without turkeys, until Mary spotted a few stately, dark and noble gobblers scurrying through a remote stretch of those legendary, eponymous Pines.  O, and come to think of it, we began the day in the cranberry bogs!

I will say again, a plethora of pipelines is poised to puncture the Pinelands.  Highly flammable fuels will roar through those pipes, threatening not only that highly flammable forest, but also the sacred Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer of 17 trillion gallons of the healthiest water in America.  Pipeline people insist that citizens have no choice.  Wherever you are, prove the Pipeline people wrong!  Write editors.  Protest.  Put up Signs.  Write Congresspeople.  Pipeline people have no concept of HABITAT!